Utility of molecular breeding in forestry
The aim of the project was to investigate the integration of molecular data into routine genetic evaluation of plantation species, in this case Eucalyptus nitens commonly known as Shining gum. Additionally, the project also investigated the utility or cost benefit of molecular information in improving genetic gain for an economic objective based on multiple traits.
Molecular based selection criteria, based upon single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP’s), selected traits within a population of 92 parent plants. When analysed for phenotypic performance and pedigree information on 69,029 trees in 27 field trials (via TREEPLAN), results are compared to see if the molecular information has led to any further increase in gain for the particular trait affected. Changes in the overall combined economic or multi-trait selection indices were then used to gauge the benefit of pursuing the additional molecular information. Selecting the best 30 genotypes based on phenotypic data alone among a group of 92 available in orchards for use as seed parents resulted in a predicted marginal return of $554 net present value per hectare compared with deploying unselected baseline seed.